The Ghosts of Alexandria (Les Fantômes d’Alexandrie), dir. Jocelyne Saab, France 1986, 18 min., Arabic & French with English subtitles
Jocelyne Saab (1948 – 2019) is best known for her Beirut trilogy, shot between 1976 and 1982, in which the filmmaker tries to come to terms with her experience of the civil war in Lebanon. Initially a journalist and war reporter, Saab became a central figure in Arab cinema, documenting intrepidly the social transformations and political conflicts in the Middle East. Saab’s curiosity and relentless enthusiasm for the culture and the people of the countries where she filmed extended to the fiction films that she directed in the 1980s, and to the photographic works and installations created in her later years, before her death in 2019.
In this programme Mathilde Rouxel, author of the first monograph dedicated to the filmmaker and the person responsible for the preservation and distribution of Saab’s work, presents three films made by Saab in Egypt in the 1970s and 1980s. Egypt, City of the Dead is a study of Egypt’s culture and society made two years after the introduction of Anwar Sadat’s economic liberalisation policy, and directly after the so-called Bread Riots. The film is both a surreal representation of the harsh reality of millions of people living in the graveyard known as the City of the Dead, and an indictment of the modernisation policies of the Egyptian government. The Ghosts of Alexandria is an evocative city symphony dedicated to this Egyptian city, long at the heart of the Arab world, at once Hellenistic, Greek, Roman, Coptic, and composed in dialogue with the literary ghosts and memories of its grand historical past and the energy of the city in the present. Finally, The Architect of Louxor is an intimate portrait of Olivier Sednaoui, a disciple of the Egyptian architect Hassan Fathi, as he explains the philosophy behind his decision to build a house using traditional techniques and local resources, linking the ancient to the modern and ‘the infinitely small to the infinitely grand’.
Egypt, City of the Dead (Égypte: cité des morts), dir. Jocelyne Saab, Egypt 1977, 37 min., Arabic with English subtitles
The Ghosts of Alexandria (Les Fantômes d'Alexandrie), dir. Jocelyne Saab, France 1986, 18 min., Arabic & French with English subtitles
The Architect of Louxor (L’Architecte de Louxor), dir. Jocelyne Saab, France, 1986, 18 min., Arabic & French with English subtitles
With the support of CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership.